Covenant (religion)

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In religion, a covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general. It is central to the Abrahamic religions and derived from the biblical covenants, notably the Abrahamic covenant.

Usage[edit]

A covenant in its most general sense and historical sense, is a solemn promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action. A covenant is a type of agreement analogous to a contractual condition. The covenantor makes a promise to a covenantee to do (affirmative covenant) or not do some action (negative covenant).

Covenant is the customary word used to translate the Hebrew word berith.[1] It is used in the Masoretic Text 264 times.[2] The equivalent word in the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament is διαθήκη, diatheke.[3]

Judaism[edit]

The Mosaic covenant refers to a biblical covenant between God and the biblical Israelites.[4][5] The establishment and stipulations of the Mosaic covenant are recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which are traditionally attributed to Mosaic authorship and collectively called the Torah, and this covenant is sometimes also referred to as the Law of Moses or Mosaic Law or the 613 Mitzvot.

Covenants are often initiated by an oath and can be of two types: grants or treaties.[citation needed] Grants are generally unilateral, unconditional covenants such as those where God made unconditional promises to Noah (Genesis 9), Abraham (Genesis 15, Genesis 17) and David (2 Samuel 7:8ff).[citation needed] Bilateral covenants are generally conditional with blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience as in Deuteronomy 28 and 30.

Christianity[edit]

Biblical theology and systematic theology for covenants often intertwines the unilateral and the bilateral, the conditional and the unconditional, such that much has been written and said about "Old" and "New" Covenants and the extent to which the "Old Covenant" still persists.[6] The typology of covenants is governed by the distribution of covenant obligations between the covenanting parties.[7]

The New Covenant is a biblical interpretation originally derived from a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah, in the Hebrew Bible. Generally, Christians believe that the New Covenant was instituted at the Last Supper as part of the Eucharist, which in the Gospel of John includes the New Commandment.[citation needed]

There are several Christian eschatologies that further define the New Covenant. For example, an inaugurated eschatology defines and describes the New Covenant as an ongoing relationship between Christian believers and God that will be in full fruition after the Second Coming of Christ; that is, it will not only be in full fruition in believing hearts, but in the future external world as well.[citation needed] The connection between the blood of Christ and the New Covenant is seen in most modern English translations of the New Testament[8] with the saying: "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood".[9]

Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, and that the blood of Christ shed at his crucifixion is the required blood of the covenant.[citation needed] As with all covenants between God and man described in the Bible, the New Covenant is considered "a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God."[10] It has been theorized that the New Covenant is the Law of Christ as spoken during his Sermon on the Mount.[11]

Covenant theology, a theological system within Reformed Christianity, holds that God relates to man primarily through three covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. In this theological system a covenant may be defined as, "an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship."[12]

Latter Day Saints[edit]

In the Latter Day Saint movement, a covenant is a promise made between God and a person or a group of people.[13] God sets the conditions of the covenant, and as the conditions are met, he blesses the person who entered into and kept the covenant. If the covenant is violated, blessings are withheld and in some cases a penalty or punishment is inflicted.[13]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches that one enters a covenant through a ritual or a visible sign.[14] Some leaders have taught that a covenant is always associated with an ordinance.[15] Other leaders have suggested that commandments that include promised blessings for compliance—such as the law of tithing and Word of Wisdom—also constitute covenants.[16]

In the LDS Church, ordinances which are accompanied by covenants include baptism and confirmation;[17] partaking of the sacrament;[18] reception of the Melchizedek priesthood;[19] the temple endowment;[20] and celestial marriage.[21] These are known as "saving ordinances" and are a requirement for exaltation.

Officially, partaking of the sacrament is considered by the LDS Church to be a renewal of the covenants made at baptism;[14][22] however, some Latter-day Saint leaders have taught that doing so constitutes a renewal of all covenants a person has made.[23]

Islam[edit]

The original covenant made between God and mankind marked the beginning of creation according to Islamic theology. It is believed that before the creation of the heavens and the earth, God assembled all of creation (that would ever exist) in a timeless, placeless region and informed them of the truth of his existence. This moment is referred to in the verse 7:172 of the Quran as follows:

When thy Lord drew forth their descendants from the children of Adam, He made them testify concerning themselves [saying]: 'Am I not your Lord?' They replied, 'Yes, we do so testify'.

This covenant is significant in that it asserts that an understanding of the origin of man is something deeply inherent to and natural within every person. Any disconnection from this memory is referred to as being ‘forgetful’ within the scripture, hadith literature and commentary. The Quran constantly implores people to recall and remember. Scholars suggest that the call to remember throughout the Quran is in fact a call to remember this particular moment in their spiritual history. Suggestions are also made that where people recognise people with ease, it is usually as a memory from this event. To strive to remember through invocations and contemplation is thus considered a form of worship in Islam called dhikr.[citation needed]

There are many scholarly perspectives taken on the significance of this covenant. It is understood as marking the beginning of human consciousness with mankind making their first conscious response to the divine question 'Am I not your lord?'. Some also see it as being relevant to the Islamic principle of Tawhid or unity as the entirety of mankind was said to have been assembled on the plane on this date.[citation needed]

Another perspective is that as an Abrahamic faith, the covenant was made with Abraham. Any person confessing to faith can become a Muslim and partake of this covenant with God:

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We Covenanted with Abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).[Quran 2:125]

Gerhard Bowering has written about the mystical aspects of the Covenant in Islam.[24]

Other religions[edit]

In Indo-Iranian religious tradition, Mithra-Mitra is the hypostasis of covenant, and hence keeper and protector of moral, social and interpersonal relationships, including love and friendship.[citation needed] In living Zoroastrianism, which is one of the two primary developments of Indo-Iranian religious tradition, Mithra is by extension a judge, protecting agreements by ensuring that individuals who break one do not enter Heaven.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (ברית Tiberian Hebrew bərîṯ Standard Hebrew bərit)
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ The Blue Letter Bible, Strong's G1242.
  4. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Proselyte: "...Isa. lvi. 3-6 enlarges on the attitude of those that joined themselves to Yhwh, "to minister to Him and love His name, to be His servant, keeping the Sabbath from profaning it, and laying hold on His covenant.""
  5. ^ Exodus 20:8: "thy stranger that is within thy gates"
  6. ^ Dulles SJ, Avery (November 2005). "The Covenant with Israel". First Things. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  7. ^ Hahn, Scott W. (2009). Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 589. ISBN 9780300140972. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  8. ^ but not in the KJV for example
  9. ^ "Luke 22:20". Biblegateway.com. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  10. ^ This definition of covenant is from O. Palmer Robertson's book The Christ of the Covenants. It has become an accepted definition among modern scholars. See this critical review of his book Archived 2007-11-13 at the Wayback Machine. by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon.
  11. ^ George R. Law, “The Form of the New Covenant in Matthew,” American Theological Inquiry 5:2 (2012).
  12. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. "The Covenants Between God and Man." Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. 515. Print.
  13. ^ a b "Covenant", lds.org.
  14. ^ a b Wouter Van Beek, "Covenants", in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992).
  15. ^ Dennis B. Neuenschwander, "Ordinances and Covenants", Ensign, August 2001.
  16. ^ Marion G. Romney, "Gospel Covenants", Ensign, May 1981, p. 43.
  17. ^ Mosiah 18:8–10, 13; Doctrine and Covenants 20:37; Doctrine and Covenants 39:23
  18. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 20:75–79
  19. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–39
  20. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 124:39
  21. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 132:15–20
  22. ^ Guide to the Scriptures: Sacrament, lds.org.
  23. ^ "I Have a Question", Ensign, March 1995.
  24. ^ Gerhard Böwering (1979). The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of the Sufi Sahl At-Tustari. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-083705-6.